The emerging understanding of how children learn science in kindergarten through eighth grade paints a very different picture of a science learner than existed 20 or 30 years ago. As this report has documented, children come to school with rich knowledge of the natural world and an ability to engage in complex reasoning that provides a solid foundation for learning science. At the same time, many key ideas and ways of thinking in science are difficult if not impossible to achieve without instructional support. Successful strategies for science learning engage students in scientific tasks that explore ideas and problems that are meaningful to them with carefully structured support from teachers. Too often, however, the instructional and curricular approaches currently used in classrooms do not reflect this emerging understanding of children as competent learners who can engage in scientific tasks throughout their schooling. Instead, current approaches are often based on now outdated knowledge about cognitive development and misunderstanding of its implications concerning how to design instruction for young and novice learners.
In this chapter, the committee summarizes the major conclusions of the report. We then follow with a discussion of the key recommendations for policy and practice that flow from these conclusions. Finally, we outline a research agenda that if pursued would fill critical gaps in the knowledge base and recommends a multidisciplinary approach to the issues that have emerged in the report.